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Clinical Review & Education

JAMA | Review

Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity
A Review
Maureen M. Leonard, MD, MMSc; Anna Sapone, MD, PhD; Carlo Catassi, MD, MPH; Alessio Fasano, MD

CME Quiz at
IMPORTANCE The prevalence of gluten-related disorders is rising, and increasing numbers of jamanetwork.com/learning
individuals are empirically trying a gluten-free diet for a variety of signs and symptoms. This
review aims to present current evidence regarding screening, diagnosis, and treatment for
celiac disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity.

OBSERVATIONS Celiac disease is a gluten-induced immune-mediated enteropathy
characterized by a specific genetic genotype (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes) and
autoantibodies (antitissue transglutaminase and antiendomysial). Although the
inflammatory process specifically targets the intestinal mucosa, patients may present
with gastrointestinal signs or symptoms, extraintestinal signs or symptoms, or both, Author Affiliations: Center for Celiac
suggesting that celiac disease is a systemic disease. Nonceliac gluten sensitivity Research and Treatment, Division of
is diagnosed in individuals who do not have celiac disease or wheat allergy but who Pediatric Gastroenterology and
Nutrition, MassGeneral Hospital for
have intestinal symptoms, extraintestinal symptoms, or both, related to ingestion Children, Boston, Massachusetts
of gluten-containing grains, with symptomatic improvement on their withdrawal. The (Leonard, Sapone, Catassi, Fasano);
clinical variability and the lack of validated biomarkers for nonceliac gluten sensitivity make Celiac Research Program, Harvard
Medical School, Boston,
establishing the prevalence, reaching a diagnosis, and further study of this condition
Massachusetts (Leonard, Sapone,
difficult. Nevertheless, it is possible to differentiate specific gluten-related disorders from Catassi, Fasano); Shire, Lexington,
other conditions, based on currently available investigations and algorithms. Clinicians Massachusetts (Sapone); European
cannot distinguish between celiac disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity by symptoms, Biomedical Research Institute
Salerno, Salerno, Italy (Catassi,
as they are similar in both. Therefore, screening for celiac disease must occur before Fasano); Department of Pediatrics,
a gluten-free diet is implemented, since once a patient initiates a gluten-free diet, Università Politecnica delle Marche,
testing for celiac disease is no longer accurate. Ancona, Italy (Catassi).
Corresponding Author: Alessio
Fasano, MD, Center for Celiac
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Celiac disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity are common.
Research and Mucosal Immunology
Although both conditions are treated with a gluten-free diet, distinguishing between celiac and Biology Research Center,
disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity is important for long-term therapy. Patients with Massachusetts General Hospital East,
celiac disease should be followed up closely for dietary adherence, nutritional deficiencies, Bldg 114, 16th St (Mail Stop 114-3503),
Charlestown, MA 02129-4404
and the development of possible comorbidities.
(afasano@mgh.harvard.edu).
Section Editors: Edward Livingston,
JAMA. 2017;318(7):647-656. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.9730 MD, Deputy Editor, and Mary McGrae
McDermott, MD, Senior Editor.

C
eliac disease is a chronic, small-intestinal immune- tion. There is strong evidence that celiac disease is an autoimmune
mediated enteropathy initiated by exposure to dietary disease triggered by the ingestion of gluten present in wheat, bar-
gluten in genetically predisposed individuals and charac- ley, and rye in genetically predisposed individuals. The prevalence
terized by specific autoantibodies against tissue transglutaminase of celiac disease in the general population is 1%, with regional dif-
2 (anti-tTG2), endomysium, and/or deamidated gliadin peptide.1 ferences (Table 1).4 Celiac disease can affect any human organ or tis-
Although up to 40% of the population carries the genotype HLA-DQ2 sue (Table 1 and Table 2).6
or HLA-DQ8, which is required for the development of celiac dis- Nonceliac gluten sensitivity is a term used to describe individu-
ease, only 2% to 3% of HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 carriers subsequently als who have intestinal signs or symptoms, extraintestinal signs
develop celiac disease.2 Celiac disease, once considered a rela- or symptoms, or both, related to ingestion of gluten-containing
tively rare gastrointestinal condition affecting almost exclusively grains (Table 2), with improvement when these are removed from
young white children, can develop at any age and can affect almost a patient’s diet. The frequency of nonceliac gluten sensitivity
any race. Celiac disease was first described by Samuel Gee in 1887. is unknown owing to the lack of validated biomarkers, but it is
Wheat was hypothesized as the possible offending agent by thought to be more common than celiac disease. Wheat allergy, the
William Dicke in 1941.3 third gluten-related disorder, which will not be addressed in this
The epidemiology, clinical presentation, pathophysiology, and review, is defined as an adverse type-2 helper T-cell immunologic
management of the disease have changed since its initial descrip- reaction to wheat proteins and typically presents soon after wheat

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Clinical Review & Education Review Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity

Table 1. Prevalence of Celiac Disease in the General Population
Scholar (January 15, 2010, to April 18, 2017) were searched using
and in At-Risk Groupsa the search terms coeliac, celiac, non-celiac, non-coeliac, gluten,
and wheat sensitivity, alone and in combination. Publications in
Prevalence, %
the past 5 years were selected in addition to commonly refer-
General Population
enced and highly regarded older publications. Reference lists of
Algeria 5.6
articles identified by this search strategy were selected. Review
Argentina 0.6
articles and book chapters were cited to provide readers with
Australia 0.4
additional details and sources of additional references.
Brazil 0.5
Burkina Fasu 0
Egypt 0.5
Finland 1.0-2.4
Results
Germany 0.2
India 0.3-1.0 Pathophysiology
Iran 0.5-1.0 Gluten as Environmental Trigger of Gluten-Related Disorders
Ireland 0.8
Gluten is a mixture of gliadins and glutenins, complex pro-
Italy 0.9-1.0
teins unusually rich in prolines and glutamines that are not
completely digestible by intestinal enzymes.9 The final product
Libya 0.8
of this partial digestion is a mix of peptides that can trigger
The Netherlands 0.5
host responses (increased intestinal permeability and innate
New Zealand 1.2
+/− adaptive immune response) that closely resemble those
Portugal 0.7
instigated by the exposure to gastrointestinal pathogens 10-13
Russia 0.2
(Figure 1).
Spain 0.3-1.4
Sweden 0.5-2.9
Normal Phsyiologic Events That Contribute to the Pathogenesis of
Tunisia 0.6 Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity
Turkey 0.6-1.0
Gluten Translocation From Lumen to Lamina Propria (Paracellular vs
United Kingdom 0.9-1.5
Transcellular) | Previous studies have shown that gliadin can
United States 0.3-0.9
cause an immediate and transient increase in gut permeability.9,13
Mean (weighted) 1.0
This permeating effect is secondary to the binding of spe-
At-Risk Groups
cific undigestible gliadin fragments to the CXCR3 chemokine
Type 1 diabetes 3-12
receptor with subsequent release of zonulin, a modulator of inter-
Autoimmune thyroid disease 3 cellular tight junctions (Figure 1).14 This process takes place in all
Autoimmune liver disease 13.5 individuals who ingest gluten. For the majority, these events do
Down syndrome 5.5 not lead to abnormal consequences. However, these same events
Turner syndrome 6.5 can lead to an inflammatory process in genetically predisposed
Williams syndrome 9.5 individuals when the immunologic surveillance system mistakenly
IgA deficiency 3 recognizes gluten as a pathogen. Thus, this normal physiologic
IgA nephropathy 4 process is also essential to the development of celiac disease and
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis 1.5-2.5 nonceliac gluten sensitivity in at-risk individuals. Additionally,
a 4
Modified from Husby et al. Data on at-risk groups were collected from
there is evidence that during the acute phase of celiac disease,
different, Western populations.5 A prevalence range indicates that more than 1 gluten can also cross the intestinal barrier through the transcellu-
study is available. lar pathway via transferrin receptor CD71, once tolerance to glu-
ten has been lost15 (Figure 1).
ingestion, with signs of anaphylaxis such as swelling or itching of
the mouth, throat, and skin; nasal congestion; watery eyes; and dif- The Innate Immune Response | Innate immunity plays a critical
ficulty breathing. Wheat allergy is more common in children, with role in initiating celiac disease and possibly nonceliac glu-
reported prevalence between 2% and 9% in children and 0.5% ten sensitivity. Cytokines such as interleukin (IL) 15 and interferon
and 3% in adults.8 alfa can prime the innate immune response by polarizing
This review provides an evidence-based update of the patho- dendritic cells and intraepithelial lymphocyte function. 15,16
physiology, diagnosis, treatment, and implications of celiac dis- These mucosal events, along with the breach of the epithelial
ease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity. barrier function secondary to the gliadin-mediated zonulin re-
lease, 1 4 lead to the passage of undigested peptides from
the gut lumen to the lamina propria. Once gliadin crosses the
epithelial barrier, neutrophil recruitment through IL8 pro-
Methods
duction 11,12,17 or a direct neutrophil chemoattractant effect 18
The Cochrane Library (January 15, 2010, to April 10, 2017), causes a loss of tolerance to gluten in genetically susceptible in-
MEDLINE (January 15, 2010, to April 10, 2017), and Google dividuals (Figure 1).

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Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity Review Clinical Review & Education

Specific Events in Celiac Disease Pathogenesis Table 2. Gastrointestinal and Extraintestinal Manifestations of Celiac
The Celiac Disease Adaptive Immune Response Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivitya
The adaptive immune response is the consequence of a highly spe-
Presence of Symptoms
cific interplay between selected gluten peptides and major histo-
Nonceliac Gluten
compatibility complex class II HLA-DQ2/8–restricted T-cell anti- Symptoms Celiac Diseaseb Sensitivity
gens and plays a role in celiac disease pathogenesis.19,20 The contact Intestinal
of CD4+ T cells in the lamina propria with gluten induces their acti- Abdominal pain, % + (27.8) +
vation and proliferation, leading to production of proinflammatory Anorexia + −
cytokines, metalloproteases, and keratinocyte growth factor, which Bloating + +
induces cryptal hyperplasia and villous blunting secondary to intes- Constipation, % + (20.2) +
tinal epithelial cell death induced by intraepithelial lymphocytes.20,21 Diarrhea, % + (35.3) +
Celiac disease crypt hyperplasia has been hypothesized to be the con- Flatulence + +
sequence of an imbalance between continuous tissue damage due
Lactose intolerance + −
to the mucosal autoimmune insult described above and inability of
Nausea + −
the stem cells to compensate (Figure 1).
Gastroesophageal reflux + −
Weight loss + −
Specific Events in Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity Pathogenesis
Vomiting + −
The pathophysiology of nonceliac gluten sensitivity remains largely
Extraintestinal
undetermined. In addition to gluten, α-amylase/trypsin inhibitors are
Anemia, % + (32) +
suggested to play a key role in the innate immune response of gluten-
related disorders.22 A study by Sapone et al23 found that gluten- Anxiety + +

sensitive individuals without celiac disease have a significant reduc- Arthralgia, % + (29.3) +

tion in T-regulatory cell markers compared with control patients and Arthritis, % + (1.5) +
patients with celiac disease and an increase in the α and β classes of Ataxia + +
intraepithelial lymphocytes, with no increase in adaptive immunity- Dental enamel hypoplasia + −
related gut mucosal gene expression. These findings suggest an im- Delayed puberty + −
portant role of the intestinal innate immune system in the patho- Dermatitis herpetiformis + −
genesis of nonceliac gluten sensitivity without an adaptive immune Depression + +
response.24 This hypothesis is also supported by the lack of enter- Elevated liver enzymes + −
opathy with villous blunting in nonceliac gluten sensitivity, a fea- Rash (eg, eczema) + +
ture detected in celiac disease as a sign of HLA-driven adaptive Fatigue, % + (26.3) +
immune response. Cloudiness of consciousness + +
Headache + +
Clinical Presentation Infertility + (1.5) −
Celiac Disease Irritability + +
Historically, the classic presentation of celiac disease had been mal-
Iron-deficiency anemia + −
absorption manifesting as diarrhea and poor growth in child-
Mouth sores + −
hood.25 It was presumed that the disease appeared when gluten
Myalgias + +
was introduced, and the timing of the presentation of symptoms
Osteoporosis, % + (5.5) −
varied according to the intensity of the immune response. How-
Pancreatitis + −
ever, the development of highly sensitive and specific noninvasive
Peripheral neuropathy, % + (0.7) +
tests6,26 facilitated a more accurate measurement of celiac disease
Short stature, % + (1.0) −
prevalence, identified at-risk individuals and groups, and helped to
a
establish that celiac disease is a systemic autoimmune disease Sources: Lionetti and Catassi5 and Fasano et al.6
and that onset can occur at any age,27 presenting with gastrointes- b
Prevalence of celiac disease at presentation indicated in parentheses where
tinal manifestations, extraintestinal manifestations, or both available.5,7

(Table 2).28,29

Intestinal Manifestations bly an adaptive immune response spreading from the intestinal mu-
Gastrointestinal symptoms are more common in the pediatric age cosa to other tissues and organs. Poor growth, short stature, or
group. Children younger than 3 years are likely to present with di- delayed puberty may be the only presenting symptoms of pediat-
arrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal distention, and poor growth.30 ric celiac disease.6 Dental enamel defects are common in children
Older children and adults may present with diarrhea, bloating, con- who develop celiac disease before age 7 years.33 Iron-deficiency ane-
stipation, abdominal pain, or weight loss.31,32 mia is a common presentation of celiac disease and is seen in 32%
of adults and 9% of children.7,34,35 In women, studies suggest an in-
Extraintestinal Manifestations creased risk of miscarriage.36,37 In addition to dermatitis herpeti-
The etiology of extraintestinal manifestations is attributable to a com- formis, dermatologic conditions such as urticaria, psoriasis, and dry
bination of chronic inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, and possi- skin are more frequent in patients with celiac disease.38 Up to 22%

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Clinical Review & Education Review Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity

Figure 1. Mucosal Innate and Adaptive Immune Responses Involved in Celiac Disease Pathogenesis

A Overview of structural changes in the intestinal mucosa in celiac disease

Normal duodenal mucosa Celiac disease enteropathy
LUMEN LUMEN
Villous atrophy
Epithelium Crypt hyperplasia

Villus

Inflammatory cells

Crypt

LAMINA PROPRIA
MUSCULARIS MUCOSA

B Normal duodenal mucosa C Duodenal mucosa in celiac disease
Gluten fragment Gluten fragment Zonulin Secretory IgA–bound
LUMEN
CXCR3 EGFR gluten fragment

CD71 in apical
INTESTINAL Re ea e
Releas position
EPITHELIAL of zon
onuli
ulinn of tig
ghtt jun
un
ncti
ction
on
Goblet Traans
nsc
sccell
elluula
lar Damaged IEC
CELLS (IEC) paas
pas
assag
s gee
cell
Increased intestinal Paracellu
Para
Par lular
lu
ula
lar
ar of g glu
lu
luten
teen
permeability passage
pas saag
sa ge fr g
fra gme
gm
men nttss
nts IEL
Intraepithelial of glu
of glu
luten
en
lymphocyte (IEL) Increase in IEL
f gme
fragm n
gm ntts
CD71 in
basal position IEL IEL
IEL

LAMINA PROPRIA

D Immune response in celiac disease

Innate immune response Environmental factors Adaptive immune response Mucosal inflammation
Gluten fragments
LUMEN DAMAGED
Microbiota NK cell IEL
IEC Autoimmunity
Genetic susceptibility migration
IEC to epithelium IgDPG
Damaged
fibroblast IgA tTG
t release
tT
tTG se Cytokiine
Cytok n TNF
TN
TNNFF-α
IL-15 relleasse IL-
I 12
IL
Gluten
Gluten
fragme
fragments
nts I -α
INF
IN
INF
INF-γ
NF PLASMA CELLS
Deamidation
TH1 cell
Stress (NK cell)
Deamidate
Deamid atedd
ANTIGEN gluten
glu ten
PRESENTING fragme
fra gments
nts tTG-
CELL gliadin
LAMINA PROPRIA HLA-DQ2/8
IL-15 release Increase in IEL
IEL Neutrophils TH1 B cell
response CD4+
IL-15 T cell B cell proliferation
Gluten and differentiation
fragments Cytokine Recruitment TCR
release of neutrophils CD4+ TH2
T cell response CD4+ B cell
IL-8 T cell Gliadin
DENDRITIC HLA-DQ2/8
CELL
M E S E N T E R I C LY M P H N O D E

A, Mucosa with normal 3:1 villous-crypt ratio (left) and with structural features of gluten fragments are presented to CD4+ T cells (right), with subsequent activation of
celiac disease (right). B, Competent tight junctions and CD71 receptor expressed on both TH2 response leading to B-cell proliferation and TH1 response leading to the
IEC basal membrane. C, Specific undigested gluten fragments bind to CXCR3 release of proinflammatory cytokines, migration of natural killer (NK) cells to the gut
receptor with subsequent release of zonulin and increased paracellular passage of epithelium, and increased IELs, and ultimately to the insult of IEC and CD71 expression
gluten fragments. D, In genetically susceptible individuals, the presence of gluten ontheapicalsideofIECwithsubsequentadditionalpassageofglutenfragmentsthrough
fragments in the lamina propria triggers an innate immune response (left), the transcellular pathway. EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; IL, interleukin;
culminating in tissue transglutaminase (tTG) release from damaged cells. Deamidated INF, interferon; KGF, keratinocyte growth factor; TCR, T-cell receptor.

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Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity Review Clinical Review & Education

Table 3. Range of Sensitivity and Specificity and Use of Current Serologic Tests for Celiac Diseasea

%
Serologic
Study Sensitivity Specificity Application in Clinical Practice
IgA tTG 73.9-100 77.8-100 First-line testing to screen for celiac diseaseb Abbreviations: EMA, antiendomysial
antibody; DGP, deamidated gliadin
IgG DGP 80.1-96.9 86.0-96.9 First-line testing for celiac disease in patients with IgA deficiency peptide; tTG, tissue
IgA EMA 82.6-100 94.7-100 Second-line confirmatory test to screen for celiac disease transglutaminase.
a
IgG tTG 12.6-99.3 86.3-100 Not recommended for routine use because of poor sensitivity compared Adapted from Thawani et al.41
with IgG DGP b
Should be sent with a baseline IgA
IgA DGP 80.7-95.1 86.3-93.1 Not recommended for routine use because of poor sensitivity and specificity level initially to ensure there is no
compared with IgA tTG and IgA EMA IgA deficiency.

of patients with celiac disease have neurologic manifestations, psy- to evaluate for celiac disease.44 HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 determina-
chiatric manifestations, or both.39,40 Peripheral neuropathy is fre- tion may be useful when there is discrepancy between serologic stud-
quent, compared with healthy controls. The etiology may be attrib- ies and histologic findings to better assess whether celiac disease is
utable to nutritional deficiencies such as deficient vitamin B12, chronic possible, because the disease, except in rare cases, cannot develop
inflammation, or an immune-based mechanism.40 In one study, neu- in individuals who are negative for HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8.44 Figure 2
ropathy was diagnosed in 0.7% of patients with celiac disease, com- provides a diagnostic approach to celiac disease.
pared with 0.3% of controls.41 Villous blunting on the small-intestinal biopsy can definitively
Refractory celiac disease is defined as persistent or recurrent establish the diagnosis of celiac disease and is recommended by the
malabsorptive symptoms and villous atrophy despite strict adher- North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatol-
ence to a gluten-free diet for at least 6 to 12 months. Patients with ogy, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) and the American College of
refractory celiac disease may go on to develop uncommon but se- Gastroenterology (ACG).46,47 The characteristic histologic changes
vere complications such as ulcerative jejunitis and enteropathy- associated with celiac disease include an increased number of in-
associated T-cell lymphoma.42 traepithelial lymphocytes (>25 per 100 enterocytes), elongation of
the crypts, and partial to total villous atrophy.48 The European Society
Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology (ESPGHAN) has pro-
The clinical symptoms of nonceliac gluten sensitivity begin after the posed an algorithm for children who meet specific criteria, for whom
ingestion of gluten-containing grains. Symptoms improve or disap- biopsy is not recommended.4 For the biopsy to be omitted, chil-
pear with withdrawal of these grains from the diet, and symptoms dren must have signs and symptoms suggesting celiac disease, a posi-
reappear after gluten challenge, usually within hours or days. The tive anti-tTG antibodies finding with a level greater than 10 times
clinical gastrointestinal presentation of nonceliac gluten sensitivity the upper limit of normal, a positive antiendomysial antibody find-
is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, bowel irregularity (di- ing obtained at a different time than the anti-tTG antibodies find-
arrhea, constipation, or both), while extraintestinal manifestations ing, and a HLA genotype compatible with celiac disease.4 Specific
include patient report of a “foggy brain,” which is described as slowed diagnostic procedures such as double-balloon enteroscopy, video-
thinking, memory disturbance, or reduced level of alertness, along capsule endoscopy, or magnetic resonance imaging are rarely used
with headache, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, depression, leg or arm and may be indicated in the workup of complicated celiac disease
numbness, dermatitis (eczema or skin rash), and anemia (Table 2).8,43 when there are discrepancies between serology and histology re-
sults or when a patient with celiac disease has persistent or wors-
Assessment and Diagnosis ening symptoms despite following a gluten-free diet.
Celiac Disease
There has been an increase in the availability and use of accurate non- Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity
invasive tools for the diagnosis of celiac disease in the last 20 years. No specific biomarkers have yet been identified and validated for
Their performance has been recently and comprehensively nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Clinicians should suspect nonceliac glu-
reviewed.44,45 Recommendations for the use of each test and the ten sensitivity in a patient who presents with gastrointestinal or ex-
sensitivity and specificity are summarized in Table 3. In practice, mea- traintestinal symptoms (Table 2) that appear to improve with a glu-
surement of serum IgA antibodies to tissue transglutaminase ten-free diet. Since these symptoms also can be seen with celiac
(anti-tTG) (or IgG class in patients with IgA deficiency) is an excel- disease and, to a lesser extent, with wheat allergy, these conditions
lent screening procedure with high sensitivity and specificity and is need to be preliminarily excluded with serologic and histologic evi-
considered the first screening test that should be ordered in pa- dence to focus on the suspicion of nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Until
tients in whom celiac disease is suspected. The IgA antiendomysial biomarkers are identified and validated, the diagnosis of nonceliac
antibody determination is 98% specific for active celiac disease, but gluten sensitivity is confirmed in a research setting with a double-
it should be used only as a confirmatory test because of cost and sub- blind crossover gluten challenge.49 In a clinical setting, clinicians may
jective interpretation, which may contribute to the more variable suggest a blinded gluten challenge during which a patient is given
sensitivity.44 Deamidated gliadin peptides—antibodies of the IgG approximately 8 g of gluten (corresponding to approximately 2
class—have a sensitivity and specificity close to IgA anti-tTG anti- slices of bread) or placebo for 1 week each, separated by a 1-week
bodies and should be used as the initial screening test for patients gluten-free washout period. Symptoms are monitored throughout
with IgA deficiency. Given the highly accurate tests available, the first- the challenge.49 A blinded challenge is not generally feasible in a clini-
generation antinative gliadin antibody test should no longer be used cal setting; therefore, for patients with fluctuating symptoms,

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Clinical Review & Education Review Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity

Figure 2. Proposed Screening Algorithm for Celiac Disease

Patient with symptoms or signs consistent with celiac disease
or at high risk of celiac disease (eg, positive family history,
type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto thyroiditis, Down syndrome)

Measure total IgA and
IgA tissue transglutaminase (tTG)

Positive IgA tTG resulta Negative IgA tTG resulta

Total IgA < 7 mg/dL Total IgA ≥ 7 mg/dL

Positive Negative
Perform duodenal (≥ 20 U/mL) Measure IgG (< 20 U/mL)
Celiac disease unlikely
biopsy deamidated gliadin
peptide

Positive result Negative result Yes No
Persistent symptoms?
(villous blunting) (normal duodenal histology
or increase in intraepithelial
lymphocytes and/or crypt
Celiac disease hyperplasia) Consider Consider HLA-DQ2 and
esophagastro- -DQ8 testing if high risk
duodenoscopy for celiac disease
Measure IgA antiendomysial
antibody (EMA)
Repeat IgA tTG
Consider HLA-DQ2 and -DQ8
genetic testing for celiac disease a
Reference values for IgA tTG vary
depending on the source of
the tTG used (recombinant tTG
vs tTG purified from human
Positive EMA,b IgA tTG, Negative EMAb or repeat
and genetic testing results IgA tTG test results red blood cells) and kit-specific
range (cutoff ranging from <4 U/mL
to <20 U/mL).
Potential celiac disease Repeat EMA and IgA tTG b
Cutoff for EMA is 1:5 dilution
Begin gluten-free diet tests in 3-6 mo
(subjective immunofluorescence
method).

symptomatic assessment of a patient adhering vs not adhering to a Acute and Long-term Management: Follow-up
gluten-free diet for at least 1 week is suggested.49 and Outcomes in Patients With Celiac Disease
In patients with celiac disease, nutritional markers should be evalu-
Treatment ated at diagnosis, and abnormal findings should be reassessed
Currently, a strict gluten-free diet remains the only available treat- after 1 year of adherence to a gluten-free diet. Up to 28% of chil-
ment for gluten-related disorders, but the time frame is different ac- dren presenting with celiac disease have a nutritional deficiency, such
cording to the specific disorder. It has been suggested that nonce- as iron (28%), folate (14%), vitamin B12 (1%), or vitamin D (27%) de-
liac gluten sensitivity may be a transient condition.49 Therefore, ficiency at diagnosis.35 Adults presenting with celiac disease are likely
expert recommendation is that the gluten-free diet should be fol- to have a nutritional deficiency, such as folate (20%), B12 (19%), or
lowed for a given period, eg, 12 to 24 months, before testing gluten zinc (67%); 32% had iron-deficiency anemia in 1 study.7 Children’s
tolerance again. Based on severity of symptoms, some gluten- growth should be routinely monitored. Current guidelines recom-
sensitive patients without celiac disease may choose to follow a mend follow-up serologic testing to assess dietary adherence and
gluten-free diet indefinitely.49 For patients with celiac disease, life- for use as a surrogate marker of mucosal recovery in children and
long implementation of a strict gluten-free diet is the only option; adults.4,46,47 Recommendations also support a baseline dual-
however, adhering to such a diet can be difficult, owing to minute energy x-ray absorptiometry scan for women and men older than
amounts of gluten that may be present on gluten-free foods. These 30 years diagnosed with celiac disease.52
trace amounts can be as harmful as lack of adherence to a gluten-
free diet. According to expert opinion, patients diagnosed with a glu- Serologic Follow-up in Patients With Celiac Disease
ten-related disorder should be monitored by a gastroenterologist Celiac-specific autoantibody levels should be measured every 6 to
and an experienced dietician to counsel the patient and family in navi- 12 months after initiation of the gluten-free diet until they
gating the gluten-free diet.50,51 normalize.4,46,47 Once levels have normalized, it is presumed that

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mucosal recovery, secondary to dietary adherence, has occurred. Al- agnosed celiac disease have an increased rate of osteoporosis and
though current guidelines according to the ACG, NASPGHAN, and hypothyroidism and had a lower body mass index and lower levels
ESPGHAN endorse and recommend the use of serology as a marker of ferritin and cholesterol compared with women with undiag-
of dietary adherence and mucosal recovery, these tests have not nosed celiac disease.65 Last, infertility and recurrent abortion are re-
been validated for this purpose.4,46,47 Furthermore, recent work has ported as possible adverse pregnancy outcomes.66
reported that the sensitivity of IgA tTG to identify persistent enter-
opathy after a patient with celiac disease has started a gluten-free Mortality
diet is 43% to 83%.53,54 A number of studies have examined mortality in undiagnosed ce-
liac disease. Some showed increased mortality, while others did
Intestinal Biopsy in Patients With Celiac Disease not.67-69 A recent meta-analysis suggested that the overall malig-
Currently available serologic tests may be inadequate to predict nancy risk in patients with diagnosed celiac disease was not el-
mucosal recovery in patients with celiac disease who follow a evated, compared with the risk in general population–based
gluten-free diet.54,55 In the United States, the Food and Drug controls.70 However, individual cancers, such as lymphoprolifera-
Administration has prioritized the need to develop accurate surro- tive cancer and gastrointestinal cancers,71,72 may still be positively
gate end points to assess mucosal recovery in patients with celiac associated with celiac disease.
disease. Although data evaluating pediatric mucosal recovery are
limited, previous data suggested a more complete and faster heal- Practical Questions
ing time in children compared with adults.56 More recent data sug- Should Family Members of People With Celiac Disease Be Tested?
gested that 5% to 19% of children with celiac disease who follow a First-degree family members of patients with celiac disease have up
gluten-free diet may have persistent enteropathy despite treat- to a 15- to 25-fold higher frequency of developing celiac disease based
ment with a gluten free diet for at least 1 year.53,54 Irrespective of on their genetics, compared with individuals without a first-degree
IgA tTG levels, 25% to 40% of adults did not achieve mucosal family member with celiac disease.6,73 For that reason, the ACG,
recovery after 2 years of following a gluten-free diet.57,58 Persistent NASPGHAN, and ESPGHAN suggest screening first-degree family
villous blunting was more common in older and male patients and members with or without signs or symptoms concerning for celiac
less common in patients with higher educational attainment.59 disease.4,46,47 Recommendations include initiation of testing by age
Given these findings, a follow-up endoscopy to ensure mucosal 3 years and, if serologic testing results are negative, repeating testing
recovery in adult patients is recommended in some celiac centers. throughout a patient’s lifetime. The US Preventive Services Task Force
More studies are needed to evaluate the long-term complications recently released recommendations that screening asymptomatic
associated with persistent villous blunting in adults and children patients with or without a known increased risk of celiac disease, in-
with celiac disease before universal follow-up and treatment regi- clusive of family members, is not recommended, based on inadequate
mens are described. At this time, available treatment options for evidence regarding benefits and risks of this screening.74,75
patients diagnosed with celiac disease with persistent villous blunt-
ing despite a gluten-free diet include implementation of the gluten When Should Clinicians Check for HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8?
contamination elimination diet, which offers only fresh fruits, veg- Clinically, genetic testing for HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 may be help-
etables, meat, and limited condiments or medical therapy with ful to determine whether patients in high-risk groups, such as fam-
immunosuppressants, such as budesonide.60,61 These interven- ily members or patients with comorbid conditions such as autoim-
tions should be offered and monitored by a gastroenterologist with mune thyroid disease, need screening for celiac disease. It also may
expertise in celiac disease, because both symptom improvement be used for patients already following a gluten-free diet who have
and resolution of the enteropathy are considered in the response not been accurately assessed for celiac disease and are hesitant to
to treatment. reintroduce gluten into their diet for an accurate diagnostic reevalu-
ation. In these cases, if patients do not carry the HLA-DQ2 or
Prognosis of Celiac Disease HLA-DQ8 genes, they would not require further diagnostic workup
Implementation of the gluten-free diet is the only treatment for ce- to evaluate for celiac disease. Celiac genetic testing may be useful
liac disease and therefore acts to prevent possible morbidity and pos- in complicated cases such as in patients with signs and symptoms
sible mortality associated with untreated celiac disease. suggestive of celiac disease and with compatible histology but se-
ronegative serology to solidify a diagnosis.2 If patients are found to
Morbidity have compatible celiac genetics but other test results are normal,
Research by Cosnes et al62 suggested that the implementation of a this places them among the nearly 40% of the general population
gluten-free diet in patients with celiac disease may be associated with that carries one of these genes. These patients should continue to
a protective effect against autoimmune disease such as thyroid dis- follow a gluten-containing diet unless they are diagnosed with
ease. Researchers reported a lower cumulative risk of developing a gluten-related disorder.
subsequent autoimmune disease in patients following a gluten-
free diet compared with patients diagnosed with celiac disease not How Does One Make a Diagnosis of Celiac Disease? What Serologic
following a gluten-free diet for at least 10 years (6% [±2%] vs 15.6% Tests Should Be Used?
[±5.9%], respectively).62 Additionally, 2 Italian studies63,64 sug- Clinicians should start with serologic testing in patients presenting
gest that a gluten-free diet may decrease the prevalence of thyroid with signs and symptoms compatible with celiac disease or those
autoantibodies; however, whether it protects against hypothyroid- who belong to a high-risk group (Table 2). Signs, symptoms, family
ism or hyperthyroidism remains to be established. Men with undi- history, and serologic results should be considered according to the

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Clinical Review & Education Review Celiac Disease and Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity

algorithm shown in Figure 2 to make a diagnosis. At the time that celiac disease in children and adults with unexplained, spontane-
celiac disease serology is tested, patients should have been follow- ous, or repetitive fracture.
ing a gluten-containing diet for at least some months.
Can a Gluten-Free Diet Be a Treatment for Situations
What Are the Most Common Manifestations That Do Not Belong to Gluten-Related Disorders?
at Celiac Disease Presentation? There is no scientific evidence to suggest that a gluten-free diet is
The clinical presentation of celiac disease is heterogeneous; thus, part of a healthier lifestyle or can be helpful to treat overweight or
there is not a “typical” presentation. Testing for celiac disease should obesity. The incomplete digestibility of gluten (see “Pathophysiol-
be considered in patients who have gastrointestinal manifestations ogy” section) may explain why some people report nonspecific im-
such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Extrain- provement in well-being after starting the gluten-free diet. Further-
testinal manifestations such as anemia, joint pain, osteoporosis, pe- more, gluten-containing cereals, particularly wheat, are also a primary
ripheral neuropathy, fatigue, and headache are frequent (Table 2). source of FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides,
In pediatric patients, testing should be considered for those with slow and monosaccharides and polyols), a group of highly fermentable
or poor growth, delayed puberty, or tooth enamel defects. but poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates and polyols.
The reduction of FODMAPs associated with the gluten-free diet may
How Common Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia or Osteoporosis the explain, at least in part, why some patients affected with irritable
Presenting Sign or Symptom? Which Patients With Iron-Deficiency bowel symptoms may report amelioration of their symptoms after
Anemia or Osteoporosis Should Be Screened for Celiac Disease? starting a gluten-free diet.77 Self-diagnosis of nonceliac gluten sen-
At the time of diagnosis, approximately 28% and 9% of children sitivity should be discouraged to avoid misdiagnosis and inappro-
may present with iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia, priate treatment.
respectively.35 Up to 32% of adults present with iron-deficiency ane-
mia, making it the second most common clinical presentation after
diarrhea.7,76 Patients with otherwise unexplained iron-deficiency
Conclusions
anemia, in those who do not respond to oral iron therapy, should be
tested for celiac disease. In adults, osteoporosis may be present in Celiac disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity are common. Al-
10% of patients at celiac disease diagnosis.76 However, the fre- though both conditions are treated with a gluten-free diet, distin-
quency with which patients present with osteoporosis is likely under- guishing between celiac disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity is
reported, since most cases of osteoporosis will not be apparent un- important for long-term therapy. Patients with celiac disease should
til a clinical complication such as a spontaneous fracture occurs. be followed up closely for dietary adherence, nutritional deficien-
Therefore, physicians should have a low threshold for testing for cies, and the development of possible comorbidities.

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